Sociocultural Factors Influencing Eating Practices Among Office Workers in Urban South Korea

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Abstract

Objective:

To understand the sociocultural factors affecting the eating behaviors of South Korean employees.

Design:

In-depth individual interviews.

Setting:

Two metropolitan areas of South Korea.

Participants:

Thirteen male and 9 female office workers.

Phenomenon of Interest:

The effects of sociocultural factors on office workers' eating behaviors.

Analysis:

The researchers transcribed and analyzed audio-recorded interviews using thematic analysis.

Results:

Among social and economic factors, participants with a family described a connection between female employment and lower frequency of home-cooked family meals. Working parents felt guilty about their need to depend on eating outside the home and eating processed foods because of their schedules. In addition, competitive and stressful working environments negatively affected workers' nutritional choices. Regarding cultural factors, given the powerful influences of collectivism and Confucianism on daily life, hierarchy and group harmony clearly had an important role in workers' everyday food choices. These included choosing menus that were most suitable for group meals and having to miss dinnertime while waiting until higher-position workers to leave work in the evening.

Conclusions and Implications:

In this sociocultural setting, targeting office workers and changing social norms for healthy eating may be more effective than providing individualized interventions. These findings may be transferable to other, similar Asian countries.

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